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Conference on the Front Porch to Feature Ole Miss Alum/UN Senior Official

The Conference on the Front Porch, the only known gathering devoted solely to the significance of the front porch in American society, returns to the Plein Air Neighborhood in Taylor this October.

The dates for the 2023 gathering are October 5 and 6.

The Keynote speaker will be University of Mississippi alumnus Richard Ragan.

Ragan has been described as the most interesting man in the world. A senior official with the United Nations, he worked for over 25 years with the UN World Food Program.

Richard Ragan. Photo via the United Nations

Ragan, a native of Cleveland, Mississippi, has worked and lived in North Korea, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Nepal, Zambia, Libya, the Philippines and Yemen.

He was the last American to officially live in North Korea where he served as the UN’s senior official in Pyongyang. His wife and children joined him, making them the only American family to ever live in North Korea. He led the 2014 Ebola Emergency Response Mission to Liberia and was the coordinator of the 2015 Nepal Earthquake Response.

He now works in Yemen overseeing one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian operations. When not working, Ragan is an avid mountain climber, heli-skier and surfer.

His wife, Marcela Sandoval is a CordonBleu-trained chef and together they have raised three children Zoey, Carter, and Coco.

Marshall Ramsey, editor-at-large for Mississippi Today, will serve as master of ceremonies.

Other guests include:

  • Joe Crespino, the Jimmy Carter Professor of History at Emory University and an expert in the political and cultural history of the 20th century United States, and of the history of the American South since Reconstruction.
  • Photographer Maude Schuyler Clay, from Greenwood, attended the University of Mississippi before moving to New York City where she worked at LIGHT Gallery and then as a photo editor and photographer for Esquire, Fortune, Vanity Fair, and other publications.
  • Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. Rick has worked for the Hattiesburg American, Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger as a reporter, editor and columnist.
  • Curtis Wilkie is a retired newspaper reporter, college professor and historian of the American South. He is the author of numerous books. Wilkie spent almost 30 years with the Boston Globe, covered seven presidential elections, was their White House Bureau Chief, and their Middle East Bureau Chief before ‘retiring’ to teach at Ole Miss and write books. He now lives in Oxford.
  • Anne Prichard Morris is a Mississippi native and a graduate of the University of Mississippi. She did graduate work in folklore and Southern culture at Western Kentucky University. She worked as executive editor at the University Press of Mississippi from 1983 to 1997, and in 1990, she became the second wife of the well-known writer Willie Morris, who died in 1999.
  • David Rae Morris was born in Oxford, England and grew up in New York City. His photographs have been published in National Geographic, Time Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, New York Times, Utne Reader, The Nation, as well as the Angolite, the official Magazine of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, and Love And Rage, a national anarchist weekly.

The headlining performer will be Caroline Herring, an American folk singer, songwriter and musician. She is best known for her historical story songs and has recorded eight albums. As a graduate student in Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi, Caroline co-founded Thacker Mountain Radio, a live-audience radio show. It continues today as a weekly broadcast on both Mississippi and Alabama Public Radio. 

Joining Herring on the music front will be The Deltaz, an Americana Blues duo.

Tickets to the two-day event are $485 and include all events, meals, speakers, picnics, bonfires, and story-telling sessions.

Tickets and information can be found at https://www.conferenceonthefrontporch.com.

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